If you’re concerned about germs, you’re not alone. Given current events, pretty much everybody is rethinking their hygiene and cleanliness habits. We’ve all been told a million times to wash our hands. But how else might we keep ourselves safe from infectious disease? One way is to clean objects we touch every day. Steering wheels, doorknobs, and faucet handles can all be a source of trouble. But you can clean these things with a wipe, or just with soap and water. What do you do about your electronics? After all, you touch your smartphone, your keyboard, and your mouse many times a day. Similarly, what do you do about upholstery, pillows, and bed sheets? It’s just not practical to do that much laundry on a daily basis.
One solution to all of these problems is to use a UV sterilizer. UV sterilizers let you clean everyday objects in a minute or less. You can sanitize a pillow while you’re watching Netflix, or clean your keyboard while clearing out your YouTube queue. This is convenient and easy. And while a UV light wand might seem a bit pricey, they’re cheaper than gobs of soap and laundry detergent.
We’re about to review three of the best portable germicidal UV light wands on the market. First, we’ll look at the VANELC Portable Ultraviolet Light Sterilizer Wand. This wand is ideal for travel, and for cleaning smaller devices. Next, we’ll look at the Feeke UV Sanitizer Travel Wand. This wand is a bit larger, but can clean a larger area at once, making the process faster. Finally, we’ll be reviewing the RIBEX UV Germicidal Light, which falls somewhere in the middle between the first two. But before we get too far into the weeds, let’s talk about how UV sterilization works, and why it’s worthwhile.
How UV Sterilization Works
So, how does a UV light wand actually kill germs? The secret is that bacteria and some viruses have DNA, just like we do. Some other viruses have RNA, which is similar enough to DNA that it doesn’t matter for our purposes. DNA and RNA are essential to a functioning creature. They’re also complex molecules, which can be easily broken down by radiation. Zap them with ultraviolet light, and they crumble, killing bacteria and rendering viruses inert.
But not all kinds of UV light are equally effective at UV sterilization. Specifically, you need very short wavelengths of light to be effective. These fall in the range of 280 nanometers (nm) and below. This type of UV light is referred to as UVC, the most powerful type of ultraviolet light. When you’re choosing a sterilization wand, make sure the wavelength is no longer than 280nm. Otherwise, it won’t work. Similarly, keep in mind that anything shorter than 100nm is considered “extreme ultraviolet”. These devices are very dangerous, and require special licensing. In other words, you won’t see them on the consumer market.
To kill different types of bacteria and viruses, different lengths of exposure are required. Generally, when UV sterilizer manufacturers give a rating, they’re talking about a rating for E Coli. E Coli is generally the most feared germ that’s also commonly found, and it’s abundant in raw meat. If you’re looking for a kitchen sterilizer, take these ratings at face value. For other applications, your mileage may vary. If you’re in doubt, just double or triple the exposure time. There’s no downside, other than the fact that you’ll have to recharge more frequently.
Benefits and Drawbacks of a UV Light Wand
So, what are the upsides – and downsides – of using a UV light wand? Let’s start with the upsides. First off, you don’t have to deal with any water or chemicals. This can be particularly helpful if you have a chemical sensitivity. But it’s also good for everyone’s health. Do you really want to be dealing with toxic chemicals, or leaving residue behind for your kids to touch? Secondly, UV light can kill literally any kind of microorganism. It doesn’t matter if the germ is resistant to drugs or chemicals. If it’s alive, UV light will kill it. It’s like taking a nuclear bomb to germs, without leaving any fallout behind.
Another ancillary benefit of a UV light wand is that it can also be used to detect most bodily fluids. Admittedly, most people aren’t going to use it for this purpose. But if you’re a germophobe and a frequent traveler, it can be used to inspect your hotel room. Shut off the lights and wave your wand over any surface. If you see a glow, give it a few seconds of exposure to kill any germs that may be left behind.
So what are the downsides of UV sterilization? The first is that UV light only kills germs that it can actually access. Take a dish sponge, for example. A UV light will kill any germs on the surface of the sponge. But it won’t do anything to kill germs that are inside of the sponge. The other downside is that UV light isn’t just dangerous to germs. It will harm exposed cells in any life form, including humans, pets, and houseplants. You don’t want to use one to disinfect your cat or your favorite aloe plant. Similarly, you should never use a UV light to clean your hands or face. It can cause burns similar to sunburn. And like the sun, too much of it can even cause cancer. For you, your pets, and your plants, just use a safe soap.
One way to eliminate the risk of UV exposure is to use an enclosed sanitizer. For small devices like smartphones, check out our review of the best smartphone sanitizers on the market. You won’t be able to clean your pillow, but you can safely keep your handheld gadgets germ-free.
VANELC Portable Ultraviolet Light Sterilizer Wand
The VANELC Portable Ultraviolet Light Sterilizer Wand is a compact, portable sterilizer. It measures 8.6 inches long and 1.3 inches in diameter, with a white plastic case. The front half of the unit consists of a bright UV light, which emits light in the range of 260-285nm. This is sufficient for killing almost any virus or bacteria in no time flat. In addition to the unit itself, you get a USB charging cable and a storage pouch. You also get a handy wrist strap, which makes it easy to carry.
How it Works
The VANELC sterilizer light is very easy to use. Simply turn it on, then sweep it over anything you want to clean. For best performance, you should hold it over a surface for a full 10 seconds to sterilize it. It works well at a range of 3-4 inches, which gives you a better spread than many UV lights. To save power, the light will automatically shut off in 180 seconds. If you need to use it for longer, just press the power button again. There’s a built-in child lock switch, which must be pressed at the same time as the power button. This ensures that your kids won’t get their hands on the VANELC sterilizer and hurt themselves.
The VANELC Portable Ultraviolet Light Sterilizer Wand utilizes a built-in 2,000mAh battery. How long it will last will obviously depend on how often you use it. That said, it will recharge in about 90 minutes via Micro USB. Even with heavy use, you shouldn’t have any issues with batteries.
Feeke UV Sanitizer Travel Wand
The Feeke UV Sanitizer Travel Wand is a bit larger than the VANELC unit. It measures almost 14 inches long, and just over an inch and a half in diameter. It’s constructed from black ABS plastic, with a sturdy, ribbed grip that also contains the battery. The last 2/3 of the wand consists of a row of UV bulbs, which gives you plenty of coverage. It outputs 253nm light, which is a bit more intense than the VANELC’s output. That said, while the wavelength is shorter, the light itself isn’t as bright. Along with the wand, you also get a Micro USB charging cable for staying charged.
How it Works
As we mentioned, the Feeke UV Sanitizer isn’t quite as bright as the VANELC. As a result, even though the wavelength is shorter, you actually don’t get quite as much sterilization power. The light needs to be held over a surface for 30 seconds to ensure complete sterilization. You also need to get a bit closer, about 1-2 inches from the surface. On the other hand, the light surface itself is very long. Because of that extended length, you shouldn’t have any issues with getting surfaces clean quickly.
Like the VANELC, the Feeke sanitizer has a built-in rechargeable battery. This battery is sufficient for five hours of continuous use. That’s a lot of sterilization, and you won’t even use the wand that much in a single day. If you mistakenly run the battery dry, don’t worry. The total charge time is only one hour, so you’ll be ready to go in a jiffy.
RIBEX UV Germicidal Light
The RIBEX UV Germicidal Light is a no-frills sterilization wand that measures about 10 inches long, and about 1 inch thick. The case is constructed from white ABS plastic, with an understated grip that’s slightly recessed. The bulb extends along the second half of the unit, and is mounted in a small recessed groove. The power button is located on the back, and is easy to reach with your thumb while you’re holding it. There’s also a built-in wrist strap, which makes it virtually impossible to drop.
How it Works
The RIBEX UV Germicidal Light covers an area of about 6 inches long by about 3 inches wide. It’s designed to be held about 2 inches from the surface, and will disinfect with about 10 to 20 seconds. This gives you plenty of cleaning performance. There’s no internal battery on the unit. Instead, it takes 4 AA batteries. These are inserted through the base, so they’re easy to change. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry about waiting for an internal battery to recharge. On the other hand, battery costs can add up over time.
It comes with a couple of extra features that make it worthwhile. To begin with, there’s a built-in timer, which shuts off the unit after a few minutes of non-use. This can help you save on those battery costs. In addition, there’s an anti-tilt function that shuts the light off if it’s turned upwards. This will prevent you from accidentally shining a dangerous UV beam into your eyes.
As you can see, each one of these options brings a lot of value to the table. To begin with, let’s consider the VANELC Portable Ultraviolet Light Sanitizer Wand. It’s exceptionally compact, so you can easily throw it in a backpack or purse. It’s also very powerful, sanitizing a surface in just 10 seconds. And you get plenty of value, with a wrist strap, charging cable, and even a convenient carrying bag. The only downside is that it doesn’t cover a very large area. For the most part, though, this is offset by the fast sanitization time.
The Feeke UV Sanitizer Travel Wand is a bit larger than the VANELC unit. That said, as the name implies, it’s still well suited for travel. It has a long, slender design, and the grip is easy to hold. There aren’t a lot of extras, but the battery performance is very good. With up to five hours of operation on a single one-hour charge, battery life should never be a problem.
The RIBEX UV Germicidal Light provides a balance between the two. It’s compact, like the VANELC, so it’s well-sized for carrying around. It’s not very stylish, but that shouldn’t be a concern. This is a sanitizing tool, not a fashion accessory. With the anti-tilt safety feature, it’s very safe to use compared to some other options. The non-rechargeable batteries, on the other hand, are a bit of a mixed bag. But all in all, the Steri Wand is a solid choice.